With 17,508 islands and 230 million people Indonesia is one of the most diverse countries in the world and the fourth largest. It is also amazingly diverse under the sea and sits in the middle of the coral triangle and is considered to be the global epicenter for marine diversity. It is second only to Brazil in highest biodiversity and second to Australia in degree of endemism. Indonesia is the mecca for divers worldwide, the holy grail if you will.
With 17,508 islands and 230 million people Indonesia is one of the most diverse countries in the world and the fourth largest by population. It is also amazingly diverse under the sea and sits in the middle of the coral triangle (formed by Indonesia, the Philippines and New Guinea) and is considered to be the global epicenter for marine biodiversity (number of different kinds of animals/plants). It is second only to Brazil in highest biodiversity and second to Australia in degree of endemism (animals/plants that are unique to an area). Indonesia is also the world’s most populous Muslim nation but is completely secular. Bali is primarily Buddhist. 53% of the population earns less than $2/day.
We use the terms Indonesia and Bali because Bali is so culturally distinct from the rest of the country as well as being the best know island in Indonesia.
Why We Think Indonesia and Bali Rocks … or Don’t
Indonesia and Bali sit in the coral triangle and have the highest marine biodiversity of anywhere on the planet. You can see more species of fish on one dive in Indonesia than exist in the entire Caribbean. Above water, it’s exotic and lush in a Robinson Crusoe kind of way on many of the out islands. Bali has interesting culture and the interior highlands of the island near Ubud are a must see. We’ve also had the opportunity over the years to live and work with a lot of Indonesians and find them to be warm and genuine as a rule.
Things that Rock …
- Amazingly high biodiversity
- 17,000 islands – something for everybody, all kinds of diving
- Fantastic culture
- Easy to get international flights
- Great land, diving combo
- Genuine people
- You’ll never run out of new things and places to check out
Things that Don’t …
- 17,000 islands is daunting – you have to know the different areas and pick and choose
- Interisland flights can be cashy and often schedules don’t mesh well
- Jakarta – big, crowded and polluted
The diving in Indonesia is incredibly varied because the country is so big and there are so many islands. Its 5200 miles across Indonesia so talking about the country in general terms for diving is like asking someone what restaurant they would like to eat at in the United States – the offerings are highly varied.
Not all areas have the same seasonality (see below) because the country is so large so choice of diving area may start there.
If you want to see pelagics, especially sharks, you will need to go to very specific, protected, areas. Shark finning is rampant across Indonesia and shark populations across the entire archipelago have dropped precipitously. As a rule, if its not protected, it gets fished. Operations such as Misool Eco Resort and Wakatobi have put together creative agreements with local villages to create protected areas. The payoff is stunningly evident as soon as you put your face underwater.
The Diving Areas of Indonesia
Komodo– Komodo area sees some of the healthiest reefs in the region. It has seen little in the way of fish bombing and most is now protected. It is great for wall diving and wide angle photography and from large critters to the very macro-ist! Waters can range from warm to much cooler and currents can be strong. From a live aboard you can also dive Alors and Flores from here.
Raja Ampat– The Raja Ampat area off the coast of West Papua has become the new Indonesian destination. The “Four Kings” is home to over 1200 species of fish, blue water mangroves, wave pounding slopes, nutrient rich bays and a startling fish population.
Sulawesi– This diverse region covers the incredible macro muck diving and unusual critters of the Lembeh Straits with the spectacular colors and big walls of Manado/Bunaken.
Banda Sea- These remote islands east of Sulawesi are a pelagic paradise notebly for mobula and tuna though it is rich in small critter diving as well. Monumental size hard corals and large schools of fish characterize this region. March and April and October-mid-December are the best times to dive this area.
Our Favorite Things to Do “Out of the Water”
We believe in Surf and Turf – checking out the best of underwater AND on land. It just so happens that most of the worlds best SCUBA diving destinations have other amazing things going for them in addition to kick ass diving. Don’t miss it.
- Dive Dive Dive- Scuba Diving in Indonesia is our favorite thing to do!
- Visit the Kelimutu Craters in Flores. Near the town of Moni on the island of Flores, see the spectacular three colored lakes!
- Indonesian Borneo. Borneo is one of the last great wild places left – second only to the Amazon in rainforest (although it’s quickly disappearing to palm oil plantations). There is a world of adventures here from seeing the endemic Proboscis monkey and Orangutans to floating the rivers on a traditional bamboo raft. You can raft, 4WD and hang out in jungle camps or nice jungle lodges.
- Dragons- An expedition to Indonesia would not be complete without a trip to West Flores to see the largest lizard in the world, the Komodo Dragon. They truly come from another age.
- Borobudur. Both a shrine and a pilgrimage site for Buddhists, this 9th century monument in central Java is a must. The monument consists of six platforms with over 2600 relief panels and 504 statues of Buddha.
- Climb Carstensz Pyramid– Located in west, central West Papua, Carstensz is a technical climb and one of the Seven Summits being the highest peak on the Australia/Oceania continent. Special expeditionary set up for this trip is necessary. Its hard core.
- Bali and Ubud Highlands. Gotta go and see it all. The highlands have a real spiritually to them.
- Surf! Sumba Island is a famed Indonesian surf spot and the island is also known for its rich tribal and weaving heritage. In fact, there is world class surfing across Indonesia. Its as varied as the diving but that’s enough to fill another article …
There are two seasons in Indonesia – warm and wet and warm and dry. April to October is the “dry” season while November to March is the wet season in Indonesia but with that said; it totally depends on where you go in this vast archipelago. Dive yachts operate year around moving to calmer and drier areas during rainy season. July, August and September bring winds to the Raja Ampat area and some resorts use this time to close for maintenance. July and August, however, are the busiest season up in Sulawesi.
Really the thing to do is just choose an area or two and go. It’s like visiting the United States; you’re not going to see it all in a week. In fact, you’ll just barely scratch the surface. Look to take at least ten days and find a way to visit two different areas or more. For instance, you could spend time in the Manado/Bunaken area and dive the reefs and walls and then hop over to Lembeh Strait on the other side of Northern Sulawesi and do some of the best muck diving in the world – two distinctly different diving experiences even though they are relatively close together. The other thing to do is look at interisland air schedules to see what is logistically possible.
Get a taste for Indonesia and see if you like the flavor. If you do, go back and dive and explore another area. 16,999 islands to go.
Sharkman and Mantagirl give Indonesia and Bali 2 Fins Up
New Guided Dive Adventure coming soon!